Stephen Mccray

Oklahoma Writers' Project


[Date stamp: AUG 19 1937]


Age 88 yrs.

Oklahoma City, Okla.

I was born in Huntsville County, Alabama, right where the Scottsboro

boys was in jail, in 1850.

My parents was Wash and Winnie McCray. They was the mother and father

of 22 chillun. Jest five lived to be grown and the rest died at baby

age. My father's mother and father was named Mandy and Peter McCray,

and my mother's mother and father was Ruthie and Charlie McCray. They

all had the same Master, Mister McCray, all the way thoo'.

We live in log huts and when I left home grown, I left my folks living

in the same log huts. Beds was put together with ropes and called rope

beds. No springs was ever heard of by white or cullud as I knows of.

All the work I ever done was pick up chips for my grandma to cook

with. I was kept busy doing this all day.

The big boys went out and got rabbits, possums and fish. I would sho'

lak to be in old Alabama fishing, 'cause I am a fisherman. There is

sho' some pretty water in Alabama and as swift as cars run here. Water

so clear and blue you can see the fish way down, and dey wouldn't bite

to save your life.

Slaves had their own gardens. All got Friday and Sadday to work in

garden during garden time. I liked cornbread best and I'd give a

dollar to git some of the bread we had on those good old days and I

ain't joking. I went in shirt tail all the time. Never had on no pants

'til I was 15 years old. No shoes, 'cept two or three winters. Never

had a hat 'til I was a great big boy.

Marriage was performed by getting permission from Master and go where

the woman of your choice had prepared the bed, undress and flat-footed

jump a broom-stick together into the bed.

Master had a brick house for hisself and the overseer. They was the

only ones on the place. The overseer woke up the slaves all the way

from 2 o'clock till 4 o'clock of mornings. He wasn't nothing but white

trash. Nothing else in the world but that. They worked till they

couldn't see how to work. I jest couldn't jedge the size of that big

place, and there was a mess of slaves, not less'n three hundred.

I doesn't have no eggycation, edgecation, or ejecation, and about all

I can do is spell. I jest spell till I get the pronouncements.

We had church, but iffen the white folks caught you at it, you was

beat most nigh to death. We used a big pot turned down to keep our

voices down. When we went to hear white preachers, he would say, "Obey

your master and mistress." I am a hard shell-flint Baptist. I was

baptised in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Our baptizing song was mostly "On

Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand" and our funeral song was "Hark From The


We had some slaves who would try to run off to the North but the white

folks would catch 'em with blood hounds and beat 'em to death. Them

patrollers done their work mostly at night. One night I was sleeping

on cotton and the patrollers come to our house and ask for water.

Happen we had plenty. They drunk a whole lot and got warm and told my

father to be a good nigger and they wouldn't bother him at all. They

raided till General Grant come thoo'. He sent troops out looking for

Klu Klux Klanners and killed 'em jest lak killing black birds. General

Grant was one of the men that caused us to set heah free today and

able to talk together without being killed.

I didn't and don't believe in no conjure. No sensible person do

either. We had a doctor on the place. Ever master had a doctor who

waited on his slaves, but we wore asafetida or onion 'round our necks

to keep off diseases. A dime was put 'round a teething baby's neck to

make it tooth easy, and it sho' helped too. But today all folks done

got 'bove that.

The old folks talked very little of freedom and the chillun knew

nothing at all of it, and that they heard they was daresome to mention


Bushwhacker, nothing but poor white trash, come thoo' and killed all

the little nigger chillun they could lay hands on. I was hid under the

house with a big rag on my mouf many a time. Them Klu Klux after

slavery sho' got enough from them soldiers to last 'em.

I was married to Kan Pry in 1884. Two chillun was born. The girl is

living and the boy might be, but I don't know. My daughter works out

in service.

I wish Lincoln was here now. He done more for the black face than any

one in that seat. Old Jeff Davis kept slavery up till General Grant

met him at the battle. Lincoln sho' snowed him under. General Grant

put fire under him jest lak I'm fixing to do my pipe. Booker T.

Washington was jest all right.

Every time I think of slavery and if it done the race any good, I

think of the story of the coon and dog who met. The coon said to the

dog "Why is it you're so fat and I am so poor, and we is both

animals?" The dog said: "I lay round Master's house and let him kick

me and he gives me a piece of bread right on." Said the coon to the

dog: "Better then that I stay poor." Them's my sentiment. I'm lak the

coon, I don't believe in 'buse.

I used to be the most wicked man in the world but a voice converted me

by saying, "Friend, friend, why is you better to everybody else than

you is to your self? You are sending your soul to hell." And from that

day I lived like a Christian. People here don't live right and I don't

lak to 'tend church. I base my Christian life on: "Believe in me,

trust my work and you shall be saved, for I am God and beside me there

is no other."

Spencer Barnett Sterlin Arnwine facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail